YOLANDA SONNABEND

Renowned ballet designer and portrait painter who collaborated with Kenneth MacMillan. 

Yolanda Pauline Tamara Sonnabend was born in 1935 in Bulawayo Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to highly cultured German-Russian Parents. Upon finishing high school she headed to Europe settling in England in 1954 and becoming a student of painting and stage design at the Slade School of Fine Arts. She designed her first ballet - A Blue Rose by Peter Wright while still an undergraduate. She gained experience creating sets and costumes for the New Opera Company and the Oxford Playhouse. 

Sonnabend enhanced MacMillan’s choreography with her innovative way of thinking and she quickly became one of his favourite designers though she was most closely associated with the royal ballet. Over a period of 20 years, Sonnabend’s different way of seeing was crucial to the set designs and costumes for Macmillan’s ballet. 

Through the 60’s and 70’s she was commissioned by dance companies abroad with her costumes gracing the stages of, among others, Bonn Opera House in Germany and La Scala in Milan. She had a distinguished parallel career as a painter of portraits, exhibiting at the Whitechapel and Serpentine galleries in London as well as abroad. Several of her works are held by the National Portrait Gallery including those of Macmillan, Steven Berkoff and Steven Hawking. The Victoria & Albert Museum is home to many of her Sketches. 

She died November 9th 2015 at age 80.